In this week's post, Katrina talks about some of her recent trips outside of London and what she learned from each one.
This semester, I’ve had the privilege of traveling outside London and seeing places that I’d only seen in photos, that before this semester I wasn’t sure I’d ever see. Even now that I’ve been to France, Italy, Spain, Ireland and England, it sometimes doesn’t hit me that so many people aren’t able to travel in their whole lives as much as I have in the past few months. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to study in a place where the opportunities to travel are so frequent and affordable.
There are so many reasons to travel, and I recommend traveling in some capacity to anyone who studies abroad. Even when I felt tired, confused or anxious on my trips, I was constantly learning and trying to take in as much as I could in the short time I was there. Each new location taught me something new, and I’m excited to pass along some of these lessons here.
Check out my reflections from the CAPA Paris trip here! My time and perception in Paris, were so much different from the Paris that I encountered in real life.
What I learned: I learned that culture shock is very real and being somewhere unfamiliar is made even more nerve-wracking when you don’t speak the language. But I also learned that “different” isn’t better or worse than the culture I know, and how important it is to be able to adapt to new settings.
I traveled to Venice, Cinque Terre and Florence during mid-semester break with a friend from my home university and another friend who also attends CAPA. I’ve always wanted to go to Italy and had a great opportunity to see so much of the country. The three places I visited were also drastically different from one another, which I loved. I spent only a short time in Venice, but loved every second. We rode a gondola, toured the Doge’s palace and St. Mark’s Basilica, and shopped on some charming side streets. Even though it went by far too quickly, I think one day in Venice was enough for me to not feel like I missed out on anything. My favorite spot in Italy was Monterosso in Cinque Terre. I loved seeing the stunningly blue sea and the vibe of each of the five small towns. I was surprised with the fact that I didn’t absolutely love Florence. I enjoyed seeing the statue of David and some beautiful Boticelli paintings, but the highlight of my four days in Florence was by far our bus tour to a few wineries Chianti region in Tuscany. I loved seeing the mountains and breathing in the fresh air after my time in what seemed to me the cramped and dirty city that was Florence.
What I learned: I’m surprised how much I’ve missed the countryside after being a self-proclaimed city girl my whole life. The things I enjoyed most about my time in Italy was getting away from the chaos of the cities and enjoying the slower pace that reminded me more of my home in Northern Michigan.
I spent the last weekend of mid-term break in Barcelona with my flatmates and other CAPA friends. I loved seeing the architecture in Parc Güell and famous sites like the Sagrada Familia. The things I enjoyed most though was wandering through the city and exploring areas like the beach, a street market and eating churros filled with Nutella. I loved exploring at our own pace and not rushing to do or see anything in particular.
What I learned: There is no “wrong” way to experience a city. I let go of the pressure of “having” to do certain things in a place. While it’s wonderful to see the famous sights in a particular place, if that isn’t what generally interests you, there’s nothing wrong with skipping another museum or cathedral in lieu of relaxing at a café or hitting some shops. Vacation means something different to everyone, and the one thing I wish I could have done differently is knowing the things that were most important to me before embarking. I learned that I like having a more relaxed pace on my vacations, instead of the “go, go, go” that it’s easy to get caught up in when you’re somewhere for a limited time and that choosing to do things differently is okay.
After doing a “DIY” vacation over break, I was excited to go on a tour to Ireland last weekend. It was so nice to not have to worry about airport transfers, booking a hotel or deciding which attractions to see. I felt so stress-free during the trip because I knew that the tour guide had all of the details taken care of so I could just sit back and enjoy. My one complaint about the weekend is that we spent a lot of time on the coach going to and from each site. The trip started in Dublin, where we spent one day and night, then headed to Galway for the next night, and we spent Sunday back in Dublin before flying home to the UK. The upside of packing so much into one weekend though, was getting to see everything I’d hoped to in Ireland, including the larger city of Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher, and the smaller town of Galway (which, like many, I’d wanted to go to after hearing Gerard Butler sing about it in PS: I Love You). The coach ride also allowed a bit of down time and an opportunity to see parts of the country (even from the road) that I wouldn’t have if I’d stayed in one place all weekend.
What I learned: I learned the value of booking a trip with a tour company, especially when trying to pack a lot into a short amount of time. I really appreciated having someone else to guide us through our experience and handle all of the logistics. When booking with a tour, though, it’s important to always be flexible and realize that the pace is not always up to you. You don’t always get to choose when to eat, when you’re waking up or how long you get to spend at a certain attraction. For me, it was worth it but some people may not enjoy relinquishing control. A high point of this trip was that we did get plenty of free time in the evenings, so there were chances for everyone to get to do things that were most important to them. My trip to Scotland in December is with a different tour company, and I’m excited to see how the experiences compare to one another.
Katrina's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.